Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

Adult males range from 40 to 52 feet and can weigh up to 45 tons. Despite their size, humpback whales are graceful acrobats. Keep your eye on the ocean and you might see one breach, propelling up to 40 percent of its body out of the water and landing on its side with a spectacular splash.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

Whales have great cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. They play a large role in Hawaiian legend—including one creation story—and appear in ancient petroglyphs on several islands. The return of the kohola (humpback whale) is considered more of a homecoming than a visit. Humpback whales are born in Hawaiian waters, making them kamaaina (native born). Some Native Hawaiians also believe the whales are aumakua (family guardians), so these gentle giants are treated with great respect. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

Although humpback whales can be seen from all of the Hawaiian Islands, the shallow Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world. 

You may also spot kohola from the southern shores of Oahu, especially at Makapuu Lighthouse and along the seaside overlooks near Leahi (Diamond Head)

Kauai offers a range of whale-viewing opportunities, including Poipu Beach on the South Shore, Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore and Kapaa Overlook on the island’s Coconut Coast.

On the island of Hawaii, whales are often seen along the shores of the Kohala Coast, as well as Hilo Bay on the east side of the island. The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site is another great viewing spot, with its sweeping, elevated views near Kawaihae Harbor. In fact, Puukohola literally means “hill of the whale” in Hawaiian.

Boat tours may be your best option for viewing whales up close. Hawaii has dozens of tour operators, including a few that lead kayak excursions—a thrilling way to experience these majestic mammals.

In respect for the kohola and the safety of sightseers, all watercraft must stay a minimum of 100 yards from the whales, but you'll be surprised how close you feel when a 45-ton behemoth lunges out of the sea. If a boat tour is not for you, the whales’ impressive acrobatic displays are often visible from miles away. If you're on land, keep a pair of binoculars handy because you never know when you'll see a humpback’s spout (which can be 10–20 feet tall).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Kahilu Theatre Exterior
Hawaii
Kahilu Theatre Foundation
67-1186 Lindsey Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
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Sacred Site Tours - Let us guide you to one of our many sacred sites on Maui.
Maui
Maui Healing Retreat
505 Aulii Drive
Makawao, HI 96768
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Skydive Hawaii
Oahu
Skydive Hawaii
68-760 Farrington Hwy
Waialua, HI 96791
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Hawaii's oldest and largest skydiving company offers daily tandem skydiving at the World's Most Beautiful Drop Zone. Tandem is the safest and easiest way to experience the thrill of skydiving for the first time.

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Anger Managment and Diver
Oahu
Dive Oahu & Surf
609 Keawe St
1125 Ala Moana Blvd B1, Honolulu, HI 96814 Slip 1131 2463 Kalakaua Ave, Kuhio Beach
Honolulu, HI 96813
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Dive Oahu offers the best scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, and cruising experience around. Scuba with no experience! Scuba dive reefs, wrecks, and dive at night. Learn to surf on Waikiki beach! Cruise with Hawaiian sea life and view the Waikiki fireworks show! Dive Oahu has something for everyone.

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Oahu
Magic of Polynesia
2300 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
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Hawaii’s #1 “Must See” Stage Spectacular! Magic of Polynesia is a spellbinding night of death-defying magic by award-winning illusionist John Hirokawa and professionally choreographed Polynesian entertainment – all in a beautiful Vegas-style showroom in the heart of Waikiki.

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Hawaii
Hawaii Outdoor Guides
74-5577 Palani Rd
#811
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
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Discover Hawaii with Hawaii Outdoor Guides - Hike on an active volcano inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, through tropical and unique rain forests, along enchanting beaches and shores, and enjoy the spectacular sights of an island that has been shaped by lava and waterfalls.

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Huki5
Oahu
HUKI: A Canoe Celebration
55-370 Kamehameha Hwy.
Laie, HI 96762
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Come experience our canoe presentation sure to both inspire and entertain. Our colorful midday production explodes with Polynesian spirit, stories, and fun depicting the allure and adventure of ocean life through ancient myths and customs, inspiring local history, and favorite island songs.

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HO'OMAU RANCH home page
Hawaii
Hoomau Ranch
89-1074 Old Mamalahoa Highway
Captain Cook, HI 96704-9998
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HO'OMAU RANCH! Horseback riding, ATV/UTV Tours & Ranch Stay. Rare endemic, critically endangered tree species Loulu Palm Pritchardia Schattaueri, Mehamehame, Native Mesic forest. Hawaiian Hoary bat! Bird watch for endangered 'io, endemic 'apapane, 'elepaio and Pueo. Cattle pastures & Agritourism!

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